TEL AVIV — Israel’s intelligence community has determined that Qatar was serving as an operational base for Hamas.
Officials said the intelligence community has tracked an increasing number of Hamas operations to Qatar. They said the Hamas presence in the Gulf Cooperation Council emirate, which included much of the political bureau, has led to initiatives to plot attacks against Israel in the West Bank.
A Palestinian youth walks near a poster in Gaza City that announces a 2012 visit of the Emir of Qatar. The poster reads, “Thank You Qatar.” /AP/Hatem Moussa
“Qatar has allowed Hamas considerable leeway in planning terrorist plots against Israel,” an official said.
On June 3, the Israel Security Agency reported Qatar’s involvement in a Hamas plot to attack Israelis and abduct soldiers. ISA said the plot was directed by Hamas operative Ibrahim Hajaz, one of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners released in 2011 in exchange for Sgt. Gilad Shalit. Hajaz, sentenced to 10 life terms, was sent to Qatar.
“He currently lives in Qatar,” ISA said.
[On June 19, Palestinian gunners from the Gaza Strip fired at least three rockets into Israel. The rockets fell into open areas near the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon and nobody was reported injured.]
Officials said Hajaz recruited a Palestinian from Ramallah named Bahar Saad. They said Hajaz met Saad in Jordan where he was recruited and told to organize an insurgency network that would be trained in Sudan.
“During their meeting, Saad was recruited to Hamas, and instructed to advance shooting and kidnapping attacks against settlers and soldiers upon his return [to the West Bank],” ISA said. “Saad was also also instructed to recruit additional members, and agreed to travel to Sudan to undergo military training.”
Officials said they did not know how Hajaz was allowed entry by Jordan. They said Jordan has usually stopped known Hamas operatives, including senior commanders.
ISA said Hajaz had told Saad that he would receive four weapons for attacks in the West Bank. The agency said Hajaz had planned to use a courier to deliver the weapons.
“The results of the investigation into Baker Saad reflect a significant trend among Hamas terror operatives released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange who have returned to terror activity,” ISA said. “Many of these terrorists have intended to carry out kidnapping attacks in order to bargain for the release of detained terrorists.”
Officials said Qatar has been approached to stop Hamas activities. But they said Doha, despite repeated pledges, has not restricted Hamas.
“Hamas is seen by Qatar as a very important ally,” the official said.